Finding Magic in the Curse of the Child Chaos and My Charlie Brown-ish Kick-Off to 2022

It happens every time. Lucy promises to hold the football for Charlie Brown, then he takes a running start to deliver an epic kick, but then she pulls it away thus causing poor Charlie to comically fly into the air before crashing to the ground. The poor sap never learned that he was destined to the same results every time.

My attempts to get Beyond the Balcony chugging along with me posting daily content has long surpassed chump Charlie's failure to launch the football across the field. Or at least, that has been the case ever since I shifted the site from The International House of Spicer into a supposedly more movie-focused redesigned version of the site with a spiffy new name and tagline. 

I purposefully slowed down on trying to post stuff in December with the idea January 1st would be a golden new era where I deliver sparkly prose at least once a day while attracting new readers with my thoughts on movies and creativity on my humble little site. I now must confess that if it wasn't for heroic new contributor and my wonderful The Movie Breakdown co-host, Scott Martin that the daily posting goal in 2022 would already be derailed. Though I am very thankful for Scott's hard work, I am feeling like I am flat on the back in the grass while Lucy mocks me as I continue to be bombarded with ideas for articles and reviews, yet once again feeling forced to apologize for not delivering the goods. 

My grand and magical plans for the site encountered a fierce and fiery dragon who blasted me back into the dark cavern that I crawled out with the beat being the dreaded online schooling.

My kids are great. I love them. Over the past two years, I have written about how this awful pandemic that has crushed my mental health and slaughtered my career still provided the treasures of allowing me more unexpected precious hours with my kids where I've been more involved in their education, get to see them shine in their creativity, and feel inspired by their positivity and joy in most circumstances. I may have got far less work done with my kids' delightful distractions, but my time with them has been priceless, as I am continually amazed by the people that my children have become.

But despite that love, I still wanted to shout curses up at the moon when I realize it is now round four of online schooling. Yet another foray where my kids absolutely must have a glass of water the moment I start getting into a writing groove or every hour they erupt into a death match with each other or they can't survive unless I find the scissors they misplaced or can't understand how I am still working in the later afternoon after hours upon hours of interruptions. 

I love them, but sometimes it is nice to love from a distance.

You'd think that after going through this three times already and one of those times spanning six months that I'd have mastered the formula and nail a writing groove without any hiccups. I'm sorry, but you would be wrong. This week has been a disaster when it comes to successfully managing writing and being there to assist my kids with their online learning. The fact I've only written one full piece this week (not counting the weekend or my podcast hype piece or this one), sort of shows that I've Charlie Browned it.

At least, the distractions aren't always the same. This week I got some fresh intrusions to my work day like one kid declaring they were running away after I sided with the other in their fight, and then the other begging me to run out to save their sibling (who I correctly assumed defined 'running away' as wandering near the house with an angry face). If I'm going to have constant issues that break my train of thought and gobble up my time, then at least they aren't boring. It also gives me more things to write about whenever I find the time to actually write it.

That my dear readers is the challenge.

What I want is to grow this site, and write thoughtful and entertaining movie reviews. I want to write pieces that bring new perspective and insight to the conversation about movies; be it with a retrospective on a major movie or something as simple as exploring the latest trailer or more in-depth reviews on a variety of pictures. I want to challenge myself with different types of creative writing and fiction to really make this a place that explores imagination and expression. I want to grow the podcast trying out some new things in that realm. I want to enter into the world of videos with different types of pop culture explorations. Outside of this site, I've always wanted to be a novelist and an author, and I have unfinished manuscripts and countless ideas that need my attention.

But none of that makes me money yet. So, my priority when I'm not putting out literal and metaphorical fires created by my sometimes adorable children is to craft sales copy for paying clients and pitching to potential new clients and editors. While I can make a respectable living with those things, and I am grateful that it looks like work is beginning to pop up again after a rough two years, deep in my soul is a craving to have more time for the above things that I am passionate about.

It will come. I am willing to be patient. I am willing to work hard for it. But I'll need to find the overflowing bowl of patience if my future is weeks like this one where going 20 minutes without an interruption is a blissful anomaly. It is so rare that I usually stop working to make sure one of the kids aren't busy building a deadly cyborg to end humanity.

Charlie Brown never figured out how to actually kick that football, because he never solved his Lucy problem. My own Lucy will eventually be lured back to school where I will no longer be taunted with that football, I need to avoid my epic crash to the ground after a failed swing of my foot before that blessed day comes. I need to kick the football before Lucy even comes out to play.

While poor Charlie yelled out a 'Good grief!' and revelled in feeling sorry for himself, these two years of spending time with my kids who are full of joy and the skills to transports themselves off to magic lands has gifted me with a compass of positivity. I've ground myself in a spirit of gratefulness and optimism, and learning to appreciate all the marvelous things this life has given me. This has helped me become more energetic and positive, even if I have days where productivity seems to be swirling around at the bottom of the porcelain bowl. The key to achieving my mountain of dreams and goals is having the energy and persistence to get up, and two years of trying to focus on the good and believing in myself has helped jolt me with the strength and focus to make this site the best little pop culture site that my skills will allow. 

As I metaphorically spiral down to the hard grass ground again, I need to realize that my Lucy is much kinder, charming, cute and loving. Even this week where I felt like my dreams crashed into a wall, there was a lot to appreciate. While I'm trying to work and Everett come charging over for the tenth time in the day begging me to play Magic: The Gathering that I should not get frustrated but be grateful my son still wants to spend quality time with me. When Danika lets out an exasperated cry that she can't read the sentence or has once again misplaced her worksheet that she was just working on, I should lean into the fact she still needs my help and wants me to be involved. Not getting work done sucks, but the reasons are wondrous.

I could declare this week a waste because I barely got writing done for this site, and just got the bare minimum done for client work and pitching to other gigs, or I can smile thinking about how much my kids charm me and the delightful moments that I got to spend with them (even if that wasn't what I wanted to do at that exact moment). If I see this week as a positive, then that allows me to be easier on myself regarding what I accomplished, and come out of it feeling positive and filled with energy for next week and beyond.

There is an odd quirk that hopefully this week will help me finally conquer. I am very aware this site is relatively unknown and has no chance of competing with the big movie and pop culture sites. It can't even be competitive against cult pop culture and movie sites. I have confessed many times that I know we will never get exclusive breaking news or land some major celebrity interview, because studios don't care too much about a small website with a meager following based in a small Ontario city that is nowhere near Hollywood. I would consider it a major break out the champagne moment if at some point I joined the Online Film Critic Society or became a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic or even start to receive a few screeners from studios. I want the site to be a major success and maybe even be a substantial part of my income some day, but I am well aware it is not destined to be the next Hollywood Reporter.

Yet my mindset keeps gravitating towards the big site mentality where timeliness is king. The big site function on the idea that they need to be the first to post the news and reviews, and if it isn't posted almost instantly then it loses all value. I've worked for several sites that would assign me articles that need to be written and posted within the hour or there would be no point posting it because all the other sites will have beat us. Writing for those mainstream sites is probably what has infected my brain with the idea that if it isn't posted immediately, then it shouldn't be posted.

Some weeks and based on my current career status and definitely my January predicament means that most things just are not going to posted before any of the other sites. Even if it was, reality is most people would read the popular sites first anyway. The chance for this site's success has nothing to do with how hot off the presses the review or news analysis ends up, but rather how much value, entertainment, quality, insight and heart I can pour into it. I must start trusting that I have something to offer even if it is a day or week or year old, because it becomes fresh due to it being my take. It may seem absolutely ridiculous, but this has been a challenge for me to overcome for far too many years.

I do know from experience that the quicker certain pieces like a review on the latest big blockbusters or a tribute to a beloved celebrity or a review of a trailer gets written and posted that it does attract more readers to the site, but I also know that stuff I wrote years ago still does well on the site because 'timeliness' isn't the only way of attracting readers. Plus, a week old movie review will still do a lot better than the movie review that I scrapped because I decided it was too late to post. This is something I need to keep reminding myself, especially while I am stuck in the whirlwind of child chaos as we live through round four of online learning.

I had a few things I had intended to write for the site this week. I planned tributes for Betty White, Sidney Poitier and Peter Bogdanovich. All of them will be a little late now, but my slant will be more what they meant to me and what I see as their impact on movies and entertainment rather than just recaps of their career that has already been reported in every other outlet. While I am mentioning tributes, there are many that I should have written over the years about celebrities that meant something to be in my life like Roddy Piper or Richard Donner that I still plan to craft over the coming months. For now, my goal is to at least write something quick but meaningful on the three major stars we lost recently.

Other things I had planned to write this week were a review for Queenpins, thoughts on the trailer of Moonfall focusing on why a movie like this means more now than it would have a decade ago, reviews for a few of the recent 2020 releases, reviews for the first two episode of The Book of Boba Fett and a reflection on some movie trends I see forming from 2021.

I don't know if I will get to all of those planned things, because new things keep surfacing. I few of them are a bigger priority than the others. I realize one of my many flaws as a writer includes my inclination to write very long posts, and sometimes I would benefit from being okay with a just a few hundred words, because then I could explore more of the ideas that keep jamming their way into my brain. 

I hope next week is far more successful in getting stuff written by me on the site, but even if that isn't the reality, my goal is to see that whatever happens during my days as rewarding and beneficial rather than beat myself up on not quite achieving all my plans. I expect delightful days no matter how they shape up compared to my plans.

There are still many things I want to achieve in the coming weeks and months on here. I want to try to write reviews for every 2022 movies that I see, even if some are just very quick thoughts on several movies that get anthologized into one piece. I will definitely make my series of every MCU movie and every Disney animated theatrical release a reality rather than just a thing I keep promising every year. As well, with the release of the fifth Scream coming out, I'd like to revisit that series. The one advantage of the theatre being shutdown in Ontario, I have a bit of extra time to get all those reviews written before I have a chance to see and review the latest (I have no choice but be behind the other site for that review). I promised over a year ago to Scott that I'd write a piece on the top main event flops in wrestling, so I need to do that, plus there are a few readers that get really excited when I write about wrestling. 

While the main focus on the site is movie and pop culture, any long-time readers will know that I've had a life long dream of being a novelist and an author. I've always been fascinated by the creative process and the magic of storytelling. That is a big part of what got me into reviewing movies and discussing aspects of the film industry. I love to tell my own stories and dabble into different odd creative writing projects. This means that over the year you can expect a few different forays into fiction and creative writing on here. The biggest being the long hyped but soon to be deliver weekly serialized fiction story. It is something that I keep convincing myself isn't ready yet or that I don't have the time, but it is a challenge that I just need to tackle and take the risk of it being a mighty flop.

But the disaster of being a flop is overrated. Not that I'm daring to compare my own fiction or writing to these but Blade Runner, Big Trouble in Little China, The Thing, Rocky Horror Picture Show and It's a Wonderful Life were all considered major flops when they came out. Now, they are held up as classics and some of the more influential movies. The dangers of not being a hit right away can be overrated, and it is more important to take chances and write what one is passionate about. That is something that I hope to try more this year.

So, what the heck was the point of this post? Well, I know there are readers that also got a karate kick to the productivity this week when they discovered their kids weren't going back to in-person schooling but entering into the online learning song and dance again. A dance that is time consuming and frustrating for those who have jobs and careers and ambitions other than being the kids' referee, education assistant, diplomat, waiter and all the other things that are necessary with the kids remaining home. This pandemic is hard for everyone and this week was probably a challenge for many, so I hope my honesty has value for at least a few,

Plus, it is a reminder to not quit and give up on your dreams and goals. Maybe this wasn't a great week for getting closer to them. It was not for me. But there are more days, weeks, months and years. Every little moment you put in the effort and try to hone your craft and skills and every time you get a chance to whittle away at creating the things that rocket you towards those dreams, then you've succeeded. Some weeks may be less than others, but we need to claim those victories.

Thank you again for supporting the site and listening to The Movie Breakdown, and reading my stuff even if it hasn't been that frequent recently. I am so grateful. I am excited for a great January and even better 2022.